When to Leave Your Church, Part 1
Church life can be tough, to say the least. The reason is simple: there’s the possibility of backbiting, gossip, spreading dissension, conflicting personalities, differences of opinion, and more. Really, there’s the possibility of feeling like the victim in the picture below!
I like what Ken Sande of Peacemakers Ministries said at one of his great conferences I attended several years ago, “If two or more are gathered together, there will be conflict.” Pretty funny, eh? And true!
Over the years I have seen and heard of many people leaving their churches for various reasons. And the reasons many leavers often give for deciding to leave, perhaps, aren’t the real reasons.
“God is leading us away.” That’s too vague.
“We don’t like the music.” Really? That’s a reason to leave your church?
I know what some of you may be thinking right now, “Is it really anyone’s business why I should decide to leave my church?” A very good question! Of course, I can’t make an “across-the-board” statement. However, if you are thinking of leaving your church, do you realize you are actually thinking of leaving your church?
You’re not leaving your building or your programs. You’re leaving your people.
The Apostle Paul often wrote a phrase throughout his epistles that we should consider more often in church. That phrase is “one another.” Bear with one another, love one another, look out for the interests of one another, carry one another’s burdens. The idea is of familial intimacy. When you decide to leave your church, you decide to leave your “one another.”
So is it my business that you are leaving my church? Most definitely! You are leaving part of my “one another.” Now, it’s not my business to spread rumors of why you are leaving. And it’s certainly not my business to hold a grudge against you for leaving. But here’s the dealio: if you leave my church, you are leaving…
This isn’t usually the perspective we think of when deciding to leave a church. Many times, the real reasons people leave their churches are because of negative issues, such as anger and bitterness. Those are not “one another” emotions. Those are “me and no other” emotions.
Usually, when a church member decides it’s time to go, he leaves as quietly as possible. Maybe he’ll send an email or letter to the pastor, but he doesn’t face anyone (or very few).
We’re quick to call our churches families. But when one leaves because of conflict there’s not much done in the way of reconciliation.
If you’re a parent, have you ever lost a child in the grocery store? I couldn’t imagine one of my kids disappearing! That would be tragic! Perhaps we should view our churches this way–that if one were to disappear, the rest of us would view that as a tragedy.
God does lead people to different churches sometimes. And there are good reasons to switch to another place of worship and fellowship. But when it comes to conflict with others, perhaps we are best to confront with love and grace. Forgive and be forgiven. Seek to be full of grace and truth. These are difficult, but they are commands from our Master.
There can be good reasons to leave a church, but conflict isn’t one of them. When the love and grace that Christ shows us are expressed from us, the world sees and ponders. And they want it.